Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back Home Department

You know why you can’t go home again? Because it’s all boarded up!

My First Wife and I had a fantastic vacation in Cochise County, Arizona, last week. Short as it was, it was probably the best vacation we ever had.

The City of Douglas put on a fabulous weekend for three major events. The Cochise County Cycling Classic, a 252 mile bicycle ride; the Two Flags Festival, a cultural event celebrating Mexico and the US; and the Douglas High School All-Class Alumni Reunion. We were there for the reunion.

My last visit to Douglas was 1988—20 years ago. I regret that I have ignored my hometown so much since then. It has really changed, but it hasn’t changed at all.

I had a hard time choosing which photos to post because I took so many. But this little selection represents just about everything.

1122-7th Street, Douglas, Arizona
This is the house where I grew up. It’s empty now and all boarded up, but it lives on in My Other Blog. I was amazed at the compliments I received while we were in Douglas. I was amazed and humbled, completely unprepared for the many, many people who said they have enjoyed “Adventures at 1122-7th Street.”

D Hill is the quintessential landmark of Douglas, Arizona. Many towns in the west do something similar, but none are as great as Douglas’ D. You can see D Hill from 25 miles away. It’s in our blood; and our blood is in it.

When we entered the banquet hall for our last big evening together, this double line of current cheerleaders loved each one of us through. They made us feel like royalty. It was a really creative welcome to begin a really great evening.

Five hundred people registered to attend and I think we were all there, singing YYYY...M...C...A!

The three pics above were taken in the old P-D Mercantile store on G Avenue, filled with displays about Douglas. A tribute to fallen military; dozens of old school photos taken every year in the days before individual photos; Class C professional baseball; photos, maps, newspapers and post cards from Douglas’ early history. So much, much more. Alumni from as far back as 1931 and from as far away as Alaska (and Kansas) shuffled through this hall for hours on end.

In the movie, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Paul Newman majestically descended this flight of stairs. Please note that My First Wife and I have also descended these stairs. The steps and banisters are solid marblein the famous Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, Arizona. The Mexican bandit, Pancho Villa, once rode his horse up those same steps.

The stained glass art is original and about 100 years old. There’s a lot more of it than shown here, too. Hundreds of notables have stayed in this hotel. The first time I ever watched TV, when I was 12, was in this lobby. By the way, the hotel will give you a fan if it gets too hot in your room.

I took many pictures that feature Mexico, but I chose this one for its comic irony. This fence is the border; it splits the US and Mexico. It’s a real ugly fence. But that’s not the point. See how the tops of the spindles are slanted toward the US? They should be pointed the other way to deter climbers. All the Douglas folks call it a “user-friendly” fence.

On a peaceful, pleasant October afternoon, there is no greater place than under God’s Canopy in Cochise County, Arizona. It really is God's country.

This is the church where I grew up. My parents were members here from 1941 to 1982. (Dad passed away in ’81 and Mom moved back to Kansas in ’82.) Both my parents were leaders and teachers here. All of our family has invested blood, sweat, money and tears—and pot luck dinners—in the First Baptist Church of Douglas, Arizona. It’s located on the only city block in the world that has four churches of different denominations.

When I went inside after a 20 years absence I invested some more tears when memories flashed out of that sanctuary. There are no words to tell how my senses and emotions bubbled up and splashed out my eyes. I’d do it again, too. A reverent moment. A happy moment.

We met the current pastor of the church, and he told us that his father and my father were co-workers in the 30s and 40s. They were Border Patrolmen together then. If that story wasn’t a divine connection that day, in that town, in that churchthen nothing ever has been. Lemme tell you something: when the Lord reaches down and paints a blessing on a weekend, it’s a class act. What a Masterstroke.

A special bonus I’ll always remember: My First Wife was patient while I ran around like a little kid. She never complained that she was bored or that she was ready to leave. She let me go and enjoy myself. Secret: I think she had fun, too, meeting some of the Douglas people I’ve mentioned over the years.

PS: Notice my cool Black and Gold shirt. “Once a Bulldog…always a Bulldog!


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